Thank you madam speaker,
In this month we should celebrate yet at the same time use this time to remind ourselves how far we have come as women in this country and how far we still have to go.
I wish to honour my mother for raising me to be the woman that I am today. Then I wish to honour women who today who are making great strides to ensure that they are heard in whatever challenges they deal with.
Let me start by dedicating my speech today to the young ladies of my alma mater Pretoria High School for Girls – who stood their ground in wanting to wear their hair natural – setting the future tone for multi-racial schools.
Madam speaker, it is today that I honour women who on a pension grant will raise a community – these are the real heroes.
Those who have so little are usually the ones most willing to give. I honour the woman who earns a pension grant but runs a feeding scheme for the children in her neighbourhood.
I wish to highlight the plight of young girls: let us not forget that in parts of Gauteng our girls miss school because of their menstrual cycle. These young women deserve nothing less: that time of the month shouldn’t mean missing school. Statistics have shown that girls miss on average as many as 50 days a year due to the cycle visit.
In many occasions in this house, I have highlighted the secondary challenge of the girl child – poverty. A girl coming from a poor home lured by a richer older man to have sex in exchange for material goods.
Sadly the price of this relationship is one which often than not, the teenage girl will contract HIV or some sexually transmitted disease or in some instances, a baby which then steers her away from her studying or finishing school.
Most of the time, once the baby is born, the girl is responsible for looking after her child and doesn’t return to school. This is the price that our girls pay for expensive clothes and smart-phones. Joining the ranks of being “drop-outs”.
Then the sugar daddy wants nothing to do with them because most of these older men are husbands and chose to protect their marriages.
If the father is a boy of the same age, it is the girl that is left with the baby – having to leave school in order to give birth while the boy continues to study and don’t suffer the same consequences for their actions.
They don’t have to loose on valuable study or school time. Many of these pregnant girls rarely go back to school to complete their studies – robbed of their futures and dreams.
Where is the boy (father) one wanders? Sometimes off with the next girl. If the girl is lucky, the boy might play a supportive role.
When girls makes it through high school and get into tertiary education, they face another wave of challenges. South African institutions of higher learning have become hunting grounds for rapists.
I remind you again of the role poverty plays on women, especially mothers who will do just about anything to put food on the table for their families. This situation has made poor women easy prey to blessers.
What about the so called male stokvels that are organised and women become the prize at the end of the evening: the host determines what the price is for the women to be paid in the morning when they depart from the blessers, around R200.
Being a professional blessee is even beginning to be an aspirational career for young women – rake in a rich blesser and the woman is set: the chance to wear designer clothes and be set up in a Sandton apartment. But – not set for life because the blesser is a married man.
I am saddened, when in Marikana, a brother who had lost his job on the mines asked his sister to prostitute herself because this was the only way they knew how to raise money so that they could eat and return home to the Eastern Cape.
Madam speaker South Africa’s women still suffer many challenges but the worst is from a very patriarchal society: where the majority of women still earn far less than their male counterparts, and yet in this same society it is the mothers that look after families and raise the children.
A woman in the work place is asked whether she intends having children or more children. If the response is yes, implicit discrimination is practised because she will commit the unsaid crime of being pregnant and going on maternity leave and so she is overlooked for that promotion or position.
In old age, you have the grandmothers of our society whose pensions are taken by the very grand-children whom they raised.
These wise women if not found are left to live in horrendous conditions where they are poorly fed while their grants are used to buy the much loved drug – nyaope.
Equally concerning is gender based violence. In rural communities, we have seen older women being raped by their grandsons.
Women have choices because the constitution dictates so, however in practice these rights are violated on a daily basis. Women endure violence and are violated.
Let me remind us all – women are the bearers of all nations.
Then, madam speaker, I challenge all the men of this house to stand in solidarity with women in two ways:
- One – just because you are not a woman doesn’t not mean that you can’t fight for women’s issues.
- Two – Adopt an attitude that says “As a man, not in my name will a woman suffer”
Madam speaker as I close, I wish to highlight the challenges I face and those who see themselves in me irrespective of their gender or age or race. Yes, madam speaker, I am a young, black, woman.
I encounter the “triple-challenge” in life: I am black, I am a woman and I am young. Because of this, society imposes a “triple-prove-yourself” mentality.
Having said that, I see it fitting to address fellow women – it’s not pretty when a woman puts down another woman. Women should learn to build each other and not pull each other down.
The latest criticism is that “I wear a doek like I will be serving tea”.
My response is simple. I am Sotho and I choose to wear a Seshoeshoe outfit with a doek and “if serving democracy is my tea, then I am very happy to serve”.
I thank you.